Friday, November 27, 2009

"Anti-technology" is no longer okay with me

Sarah Dopp tweeted "Whomever is loud right now is probably loud because not too long ago, they felt silenced."

Which has this massive resonance to me. Really. It seems odd, but I have spent the last years feeling silenced. While the self-proclaimed grown-ups made the decisions I just tried my best to live with the sense of alienation and shame of being a technologist and technophile while being surrounded with the strange energy of West Sonoma County, and of a school community which is largely anti-technology.

How strange? How do you have an anti-technology school community in this third millennium?

When we joined the school I thought we were signing up for a loving school community (which we have had - that part is delightful) with loving supportive teachers (and we have been very fortunate there as well!) And I thought we were joining a community which thought that younger kids should limit their TV and movies intake.

And I even signed up for that one. I like 'Bob the Builder', but it was a good trade to get a loving community.

What I didn't realize was the deep current of fundamentally anti-technological people in the community.

About two years ago Sebastopol had a stupid-fest in which the city council voted against accepting free WiFi from local ISP because of alleged health effects.

This campaign included an email on the class email list (and yes, it does seem sort of absurd that our 'anti technology' school uses email.) :-/

I complained that I felt it was inappropriate for the class mailing list to be used to advocate for a specific political position. The teacher told me "what did you expect, sending your child to an
anti-technology school."

To be honest, that quote has haunted my thoughts and has colored my experiences of almost every interaction I have had at the school since then.

At the time I was battling deep depression, and to raise the issue at all had taken me a huge amount of emotional effort.

The response felt like a pretty clear statement of contempt for my deeply held values; my views
were marginalized, and it was an attack on my whole world view.

I am a technologist. And I am finally able to feel proud of that fact.

I believe that what I do makes the world better in deep and fundamental ways. I am working to create new ways of seeing the world, and new ways of understanding reality.

And I have worked hard to be tolerant of the views of others at the school even when they don't
mesh with my own. But now I have learned that apparently 75% of our kindergarten class has
vaccination waivers. The normal is about 2%

75%. I consider this to be fundamentally insane.

My girlfriend is immuno-suppressed. Her doctor has told her that it is not safe for her
to be around the school because of this public health disaster.

My aunt survived polio. My brother is deaf and has other health effects because my mother
had rubella during her pregnancy.

Should we go on?

A member of Spencer's class had _whooping cough_ for god's sake! His mother was
able, with a straight face, to report in the newspaper that their non-vaccination plan
was fine, and that the various diseases which they had all caught were fine.

Including whooping cough. In the 21st century someone can argue that a family
getting whooping cough is reasonable?

I am still trying to work this out. Tolerance of other views is a virtue. But the key here
is that this is 'tolerance.' Not acceptance, and not agreement.

I am also trying to work out this tension of community. I sat with this woman during a Waldorf equivalent of Shiva when a beloved teacher died. How do you hold those two truths together?

We can be in community with people with values with which we disagree, but we don't have
to (and we must not!) allow that 'tolerance' to be mistaken for agreement.

Sonoma County at center of anti-vaccine debate

To vaccinate or not?

Who is loud, and why?

@sarahdopp Whomever is loud right now is probably loud because not too long ago, they felt silenced.

From Sarah Dopp.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mystery of the missing cliff bars (by Rose)

As Maddy and Spencer know, Rich and I had a Mystery of the Missing Clif Bars this week. It was mysterious enough that we asked the kids, "Do you know what happened to the grocery bag of Clif Bars?" because we thought maybe they'd have seen the bag in the car, or have eaten some, or SOMETHING. (There had been approximately 30 bars in the bag!)

Theories included:

We left the bag at the grocery.
We left the bag in the car and it's buried under stuff.
(We didn't really believe this one). We brought the bag into the house and children ate more than 20 Clif Bars in 3 hours. (There weren't any wrappers, or kids with tummyaches, so this seemed unlikely!)

After not figuring anything out, we gave up for a few days -- UNTIL!

We found an uneaten and unopened Clif Bar on the walk between the cottage and Ed's house. Huh? So we started wondering again what had happened to the bag of bars.

Today, we think we have an answer. This answer is not for the faint of heart.

In the yard between the houses, we saw some dog poop. This dog poop had Clif Bar wrapper in it.

A little ways on, we saw more dog poops. Each of them with Clif Bar wrappers mixed in.

There are *many* Clif Bar dog poops in the yard. Final straw: *Another* unopened and uneaten Clif Bar by the side yard, where Jack hangs out.

Admittedly, we did not *see* Jack take the Clif Bars. But I think the evidence points to a certain BIG RED DAWG as the culprit.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Getting Ready for Vienna

My wonderful girlfriend Rose White is the artist/sociologist in residence for December at the nifty Vienna based group Monochrom.

This is fabulously cool because I am going with her. We fly Nov 30th, a week from Monday. And it looks like my spit spot awesome kids will be joining us Dec 21st.

This is all a bit stressful - lots of details and bits to organize - but it is starting to move from 'eeeeek' mode to 'wow, how cool' mode.

Any advice is welcome.

This year we spent 11 days on the playa for Burning Man and I took something like 170+ GigaPans.

We will have almost twice that amount of time in Vienna _before_ the chaos of my children descend, plus Vienna is filled with things which are worth capturing. It seems like I might take a gigapan or two while I am there.

Then we go to Berlin for the Chaos Communications Congress, plus we get a bonus day in Amsterdam. Officially I think it is a 23 hour layover, but how fun...enough time to dive bomb another city locked in the cold of winter :-)

I should probably bring warm clothes.

I'm Okay

No, not that way. Well, yes, I am okay, but this is about Ted Morse, Trey Smith, Eric Park, and two people who I don't know winning the first prize in the recent Random Hacks of Kindness code jam.

Here is an article about them in the Carnegie Melon newsletter.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jim Richardson uses the GigaPan

Jim Richardson is a wonderful photographer for National Geographic. He was at the recent Fine Outreach for Science GigaPan workshop in Pittsburgh. He is using the GigaPan in fun ways.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dead birds and plastic

Our plastic gets into the ocean. It then collects in great gibbering gyres of crap, which birds eat, and feed to their young, and they die.

And their bodies rot but you can tell where they were by the bird shaped midden of plastic.

You can read more, and look at some pictures.

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

Walt Kelly was a Great American. He drew the Pogo comic strip and filled it with subversive content.

Considering that he died in 1973 I am shocked at how subversive the strip _still_ seems. We still don't get it. None of us, really. Certainly not me. I was reminded of this when someone wrote a post to a mailing list asking for advice on a project. The NYCResistor hacker space was suggested to her as a good resource. She knew about the space, but commented that you have to pay to be a member of that group.

NYCResistor is a bit more focused on limiting access to members and their guests, while Noisebridge has a nearly wide open policy. I prefer the Noisebridge model, I think it leads to more hackers, and perhaps even to more money to support the space, but in either case these spaces don't support themselves.

So I wrote a reply, lightly edited here to look slightly less like a reply...

Your message raises some important (to me anyway :-) questions about value and how we support the things we care about.

NYCResistor is an attempt by people, who seem a lot like you, to create a Third Space where people can work on projects, like yours, and provide a community of other people, like you, to support each other.

It really seems to me like NYCResistor, and the hackerspaces movement, is/are working to create exactly the sorts of spaces which support you and your projects.

Dorkbot, and other lists like it, have done great work, but they don't provide physical space and physical community.

Supporting spaces like this requires money. For NYCResistor they ask for about as much as having an espresso each day (but they don't really monitor the drink fridge, so you can totally leach off of that :-).

The sense I get from your message is that you are applying an economic judgment to paying these fees, and supporting this sort of community, and since it is an optional expense you are electing not to be part of it. I think that your reaction is fairly common, and that makes me sad.

We all spend huge amounts of money on things which don't support our values, but when we get to the things which directly support our values, but which are 'discretionary' we apply economic thinking to what is a really a question of values.

Our system encourages this kind of thinking. We are all part of, or users of, large institutions. Work and school and libraries, etc. And we have little direct power and little direct financial control over these institutions.

But hackerspaces are created and supported by small groups. They are us.

To quote Pogo "We have met the enemy and he is us."